The exciting part of an aircraft carrier in most people’s minds would be the FA-18s howling off the deck, while the crews in their colored-coded uniforms perform what’s been called "a symphony of chaos."
But below the flight deck is everything that makes the ship tick-- by thousands of people who might spend their entire day without seeing the outdoors.
The one man who really makes sure that everything is in working order grew up in the Roanoke Valley: Chief Warrant Officer Jason Grisso.
“For a small-town boy in Roanoke, Virginia-- Stewartsville specifically-- it's absolutely eye-opening to see how people live. It's humbling, actually,” Grisso said as we toured the ship.
Grisso wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps,so he joined the Navy, hoping to learn a trade.
“I went down to the recruiting office on Peters Creek one day, and they had me on the bus no more than two weeks later,” he said.
For nine years, he was a mechanic, traveling the world as a sailor and working primarily on planes. Then, he began taking classes and got a degree, earning his current rank-- and responsibility.
From the smallest circuit board to the calibration of tools to maintenance of the ship’s firefighting equipment-- and the fighter jets themselves-- if it’s broken on the Abe Lincoln, it’s Grisso’s team that fixes it.
He showed us diagnostic computers, called “benches,” which determine why an F-18 might not be working properly. During our tour, his team was fixing the computers themselves.
Another team member was adjusting the tension on a metal bar that attaches to a jet. The mechanism releases at just the right pressure to send the jet down the deck and into the air. It has to be perfect.
All of this precise work must be done on board.
“Without aircraft air maintenance support, there's no way that we could launch the aircraft no matter where we are in the world,” Grisso explained.
Grisso has been on numerous deployments, to places like the Mediterranean, Portugal, Spain, Italy Egypt, Bahrain and Dubai-- a long way from his upbringing in Stewartsville.
“It's been empowering and also enlightening to see how other people live their lives, and kind of take that back home and share it with some of my friends. It's been a neat experience,” Grisso said.
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